One in 40 000 children diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia. It’s no wonder the condition is not a full known one among the general population – and with numbers that low it may seem like nothing. What a lot of people do not understand is that the presence of schizophrenia in children can present more severely than in adults.
What is childhood schizophrenia?
Pediatric schizophrenia is a rare yet serious psychological condition that affects children. In essence, it is the same as schizophrenia in adults except that it develops during childhood and has a more severe impact on the child’s cognitive, emotional and psychological development. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking and issues with behaviors and emotions.
It is rare for children to diagnosed earlier than the age of 13, but there are some early signs such as language delays or slow walking. Unfortunately, these symptoms can also be related to persuasive developmental disorders such as Autism. During the teenage years, symptoms may manifest themselves through sleep disruptions, irritability, depression, substance use and strange behavior. As a child with schizophrenia continues to develop, later signs may include hallucinations, delusions and disorganized motor skills (odd postures, useless or excessive movement).
Although there is no known cause for pediatric schizophrenia, it has proved that the condition is genetic.
How is schizophrenia diagnosed?
Diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia can be difficult, as it relies mostly on reports from parents, teachers, doctors and other adults involved in the child’s life. Coming to a diagnosis typically involves ruling out other causes for specific behaviors.
How is childhood schizophrenia treated?
Treatment of childhood schizophrenia is typically similar to treatments for adult schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medications are widely used to treat and mild symptoms. Children who are severely affected may require day-to-day care or hospitalization if their behaviors are potentially harmful to themselves or others. Overall, children with schizophrenia need more than one method of treatment: medication, social skill training, specialized education and a supportive environment.
What can parents do?
As a mother, coping with a child with schizophrenia can be difficult, especially if your child talks about things that no one else can see or hear. The most important thing you can do for your child who is experiencing delusions and hallucinations is to make sure he or she is comfortable speaking to you about these experiences.
If you tell your child that they are imagination things or make them feel self-conscious about their feelings, they will close and not discuss these issues with you. Knowing what your child is experiencing makes it possible for you to help them control their symptoms. Encourage and reward your child when they talk about their symptoms.
Another severe symptom parents deal with day-to-day is the meltdowns, or temper tantrums, that may have no visible triggers and may render their child inconsolable. Providing a quiet, stress-free environment and a simple daily routine is helpful in preventing and maintaining these behaviors.
When parenting a child with pediatric schizophrenia, it is important to remember that the first step in helping your child is to provide them with love and support. From there you can create an environment conducive to their needs and reach out to medical professionals who can offer guidance and additional resources.